Can "the Center hold" once the Center becomes a no-man's zone?
Among all the serious questions facing mankind these days, that one may be the only one truly deserving of thoughtful examination.
And it's not just here in a divided US. Everywhere you look populations across the globe seem to be rushing to the corners, leaving the few trying to hold the center in a kind of kill-zone, wide open to fire form all sides.
And governance is showing the strain. Monetary dominance swings from one polar extreme to the other. Polarized populaces rush from one side of their ship of state to the other. Once steady courses degenerate into zig zagging juggernauts, sailing every which way, but nowhere in particular - adrift in heavy seas filled with dangerous reefs.
Just why do you think the the US, which likes to see herself as the world's pillar of freedom, has become the world's premier Peeking Tom - spying on it's own citizens, and damn near every other citizen on the planet? Or why so many other "free nations," in Europe have begun doing the same? Why the recent elections in Europe show a growing desire to dismantle the EU and retreat within their ancient borders once again?
The answer is simple: fear that every government is losing control. And those govenments themselves fear those they govern, or should I say, "used to govern." As the center empties, the mounting shouts and jeers from the extremes scares the hell out of them.
So they spy. After all, "inquiring minds want to know." They aren't looking for solutions, but "troublemakers." (You have to know we've crossed a tipping point when even online humor and sarcasm are deemed a threat that must be monitored, and managed.) Because, who knows what spark could set off a social networking wildfire, fill a capital city with angry chanting citizens from one or more waring corner.
Just a short couple of decades ago professional political players believed they could harness one or another of these extreme demographics to their own purposes. Instead the extremists first act after being embraced by the establishment party was to eliminate moderate forces in their corner, because those moderate forces were still standing way too close close to the center. And, once those moderates were gone, he next tier of extremists in line became "too close to the old center," and they too were eliminated.
Today all that remain in these extreme corners are the purists - the political/social/financial equivalent to the Puritans. Now the Center is where politicians go, should they dare, only to die.
And so those who govern worry. The very idea of recapturing and repopulating the Center seems now hopelessly out of reach. So instead they must keep an increasingly intrusive eye on us, all of us. On every corner, CCTV cameras whir as they follow us along city sidewalks. Our phones have become about as private as indian smoke signals. Our Web surfing habits and emails fill NSA pillbox-like warehouses in Utah for storage, like frozen sperm or eggs, just in case.
Anyone who thinks any of that is going to change for the better is kidding themself. As long as the Center remains a no-man's land, no man, or woman, or child is going to go unwatched. Because, even extremists know, maybe better than anyone, that there has never been an extremist who can be trusted with the Common Good.
Because the hard work of creating and protecting the Common Good can only happen in the Center. Everything else is conflict. And conflict breeds self-confirming paranoia. And paranoia creates, well, what we're getting right now.